So I've been meaning to start an NBA blog for a while now, and I've been a big fan of the Wages of Wins Network for quite some time. Here, for your amusement (or ridicule, or amazement), I present the NBA Geek. In the articles section I plan to post daily or semi-daily with keen, nay, brilliant, insights into the NBA. In the players section you'll find the statistics from the latest NBA season (multi-season functionality is in a future release, I promise) and the FAQ and About sections offer a little more info about what I'm trying to accomplish here. What better day to launch an NBA blog than on draft day? After all, we're all going to be terribly excited about the NBA for a few days, right before we forget it about it completely for the next 3-4 months. And that's if there's no lockout.
The other day I get in a Twitter catfight with @JerryZgoda, who happens to be the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter in charge of following the Minnesota Timberwolves. It all started with a tweet that I sent to him saying that the Timberwolves probably don't want to draft a power forward because they already have the best PF in the game (oh yes, I went there). Jerry replies with something along the lines of "You're crazy, what about Blake, Pau, Dirk, Amare, and LA?"
And here's where things get interesting and I'd like to take a moment to reflect on my statement. I'll go out on a very short, very thick and sturdy limb here and say that most of you do not agree with my assessment. And that's fine. But, if you do not agree that Kevin Love is at least in the conversation than you really are not watching the same game that I am (or you've never seen him play). To illustrate this point, let's use my sites handy comparison engine to compare the players:
Let's ignore "advanced" stats now and just concentrate on the raw box score measures. Love ranks 1st in rebounds, 2nd in TS%, 2nd in FT%, 2nd in 3FG% (and by the way Amare only took 23 threes), 2nd in Steals, 1st in personal fouls, 1st in turnorvers (yes, NOT doing something is "good" sometimes). So in every category except FG% (which does not account for the weight of 3pt shots), assists, points, and blocks, he is first or second. And in two of those categories (rebounds and turnovers), his margin is wide. How is this player not "in the conversation"? I have the suspicion that the answer is three-fold: 1) he plays for a losing team, 2) he does not score most of his points in the post, like a power forward "should", 3) he is not particularly athletic.
These arguments are each fairly flawed. To the first point, I've never really understood the argument that good players on bad teams are not good players. As has been covered quite a bit, diminishing returns on rebounds, while present, is not a very large effect. And does anywone truly believe that if Kevin Love played with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan, that his shooting percentage would go DOWN? Why? From all those defenders leaving those three wide open so they can double down on Love? Really? Would his assists go down now that he can no longer pass to all those sharp-shooting Timberwolves?
Second, and this is one that always bugs me, why do people care HOW the ball goes in the basket? As my coach used to say in high school, "Hey, the ugly ones also count 2 points." If LaMarcus Aldridge's jumper looks prettier, it doesn't count extra.
A similar point can be made to athleticism. Playing basketball in the NBA demands a lot from an athlete. But as many former lottery picks and slam dunk champions can attest, athleticism does not win games by itself. Very athletic players tantalize us because we all see the "potential" for the next Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Clyde Drexler. But there are plenty of skilled and effective basketball players who "only" possess the baseline athleticism required to play at the NBA level. Again, if they are effective, why does it matter if they're athletic?
The kicker is, at some level, I think most fans recognize this. Most of us play lip service to those "hard-working" role players that do the "little things" that are required to win. But few of us actually follow those thoughts to their logical conclusion: if those things are required to win, why are they "little"? Maybe those are the big things you have to do to win?